Situated just off St James’s, The Stafford Hotel is surrounded by some of the highest-quality independent retailers in London. ‘St James’s Afternoon Tea’ brings to life six local stores, in a unique and delicious dining experience, with every bite as luxurious as its inspiration. You may wonder how the likes of James J. Fox, a timeless cigar shop, and Henry Poole & C., a tailor, can be incorporated into such a traditional delicacy but The Stafford’s Executive Pastry Chef, Magdalena Kubańska, has created an afternoon tea that both surprises and delights, with intricately detailed sweets and delicate savouries.
An impressive hotel with incredibly welcoming staff, we almost felt like royalty as we were taken to our table. This five-star hotel is quintessentially British, the decor classic and timeless, with leather chairs, a grand open bar, high ceilings and a beautiful fireplace, which we were lucky enough to be sat by. We dined on a table that seats four, so there was ample space for our pot of fresh leaf tea, champagne and of course the star of the show, the food. The service is very attentive; we chose our tea by smelling the different tea leaves and listened with intent to the story behind each item on our table.
The Game Bird is just one of the restaurants in The Stafford, offering an all-day dining menu as well as afternoon tea. During weekends it is predominantly visited by hotel guests or small groups for special occasions. In the week, it is a great venue for working lunches, attracting city workers looking for a relaxed yet fine dining experience.
Each delicacy, savoury and sweet, has a story-telling element, celebrating the luxurious shopping area of St James’s. We began with a small cup of rice tea, to cleanse the pallet, before tucking into a selection of traditional finger sandwiches, served alongside the most indulgent truffled-egg brioche bun and The Game Bird’s signature sausage roll.
Next, we moved onto the scones, plain, raisin and cheese. Still warm, we selected the savoury scone first. Made with Westcombe Cheddar Cheese from local cheesemonger Paxton & Whitfield, we topped it with lashings of thick crème fraîche, laced with finely chopped chives.
Before indulging in another scone, we sampled some of the sweets. Our favourite was the fruit trifle with crème chantilly, served in a traditional Foster & Son shoe polish tin and with a marbled chocolate shoehorn. Just as impressive was the hollow chocolate cigar, filled with a creamy hazelnut mousse, inspired by James J. Fox.
The cupcake was a welcomed surprise, filled with English strawberries and sprayed with a rosewater ‘perfume’, created to celebrate the new ‘A Rose For’ perfume from the Floris fragrance collection. As a nod to the oldest hat shop in the world, Lock & Co, chef Magdalena created a white chocolate and lime jelly top hat, which sits fittingly next to the almond shortbread tuxedo, in homage to Henry Poole & Co.
In a nutshell
This is a heritage afternoon tea, inspired by generations of some of London’s best retailers. At £45 per person, this is a treat to be enjoyed and savoured – and if you can’t finish it all, The Stafford kindly packages up any leftovers in the most elegant ‘doggy bag’ you’ve ever seen.
The Stafford London, 16-18 St James’s Place, London SW1A 1NJ; 020 7493 0111; firstname.lastname@example.org; thestaffordlondon.com